IBD Surgical Outcome Registry

1 in 5 emergency bowel cancer patients had symptoms before diagnosis

Posted 29 September 2016 in

Around one in five bowel cancer patients diagnosed after an emergency presentation have displayed at least one cancer ‘alarm symptom’ in the year leading up to their diagnosis, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Mr Mark Chapman, chair of the ACPGBI External Affairs Committee, says:

“Over the past decade great strides have been made in the early diagnosis and treatment of colorectal (bowel) cancer. Unfortunately still far too many patients are presenting as emergencies to A & E with advanced disease.

Bowel cancer is the 3rd commonest cancer, affecting about 1 in 60 of us. If caught early it is relatively easy to cure with surgery. The symptoms in the early stages of the disease are subtle and non-specific. This is why it is so important that the public take up the screening opportunity now offered to all of those aged 60 years of age. This test, the faecal occult blood test(FoBT) is simple to do. Currently, the uptake by the public is only about 35 – 60%. If this was increased many more lives would be saved and the frequency of emergency presentation reduced.

In addition, the Government has introduced the Bowel Scope Project, which is now being rolled out across England. In this initiative, members of the public aged 55 years are offered a screening flexible sigmoidoscopy (camera test via the back passage). The purpose of this is to detect and remove polyps (small growths) in the bowel before they have the chance to turn into cancer.

The new NICE guidelines have been refined to help GPs spot the subtle signs of early bowel cancer, such as anaemia, and therefore refer to a specialist service urgently.

It is hoped these strategies coupled with increased public awareness will lead to the earlier diagnosis and cure of this common cancer. The ACPGBI urge all members of the public to look out for the symptoms of bowel cancer and to take advantage of these tests and to seek their GP’s advice.”

Read the study findings here:

  • Do colorectal cancer patients diagnosed as an emergency differ from non-emergency patients in their consultation patterns and symptoms? A longitudinal data-linkage study in England, Renzi et al., British Journal of Cancer, 2016

Further information: